19 January 2022
Cape Town’s exquisite natural beauty can be appreciated by walking one or more of its many hiking trails. There are hundreds of options to choose from in and around the city, with all levels of fitness catered for. There are also hikes which are suitable for children and dogs.
Here we give an overview of some of the best hikes in Cape Town. These hikes feature everything from tricky, rocky mountain paths to gushing waterfalls, lush indigenous forests or picturesque ocean views.
The Pipe Track, on the slopes of Table Mountain, is a good hike for beginners. At 6km long, it takes around four hours to complete. It’s fairly level and you’ll enjoy beautiful views of Camp’s Bay, Lion’s Head and the ocean, and walk through pretty ravines. The trail was built to service a pipeline that supplied Cape Town with water in the 19th century. This hike is suitable for children and for dogs – with a permit.
Lion’s Head is a slope next to Table Mountain, which includes a 5.5km return hike. There’s a short section of climbing with handholds and chains near the top. If you’re worried about the climbing, there is an alternate route that will add about 30 minutes to your hike. There are breath-taking views all along the route. Some hikers tackle the path during the full moon.
On the other side of Table Mountain from Lion’s Head is Devil’s Peak. This is a great hiking spot in Cape Town, with awesome views of the city lying at the foot of the mountain. There are three routes to get to the Saddle – the part that connects Devils’ Peak and Table Mountain. From the Saddle, you can continue to the summit of Table Mountain if you want to. The trail takes around four hours to do. It can be very windy and isn’t suitable for young children.
Plattekloof Gorge is one of Cape Town’s most popular hiking trails. Leading to Table Mountain’s summit, this very steep hike is recommended for relatively fit hikers even though it’s only 2.5km long. There’s little shade on the hike, so it’s best to stay away on very hot days or to leave early in the morning. You’ll be rewarded with breath-taking views along the way. If your legs feel like jelly by the time you reach the top, you can ride the cable car back down.
If you’re looking for easy hikes in Cape Town, then the trail to the Elephant’s Eye Cave is a great option. Enjoy walking through the shady forest, before having a picnic in the large cave. On the way back you can swim in the well-known Silvermine Dam. The trail is about 6km long, depending on where you park. Put four hours aside to do the hike, so that you have enough time to swim and picnic too.
Other popular hikes to the Silvermine Dam include Silvermine Ridge and Sentinel View. Many of the Silvermine hikes are suitable for children and inexperienced hikers. Dogs can be walked there with a permit.
There are various trails in Newlands Forest such as the Short Circular and the route to Breakfast Rock. Featuring lots of shade and a lake to swim in, these easy walks are perfect to do with children and dogs.
The Skeleton Gorge Trail starts at the stunning Kirstenbosch Gardens. It goes from one side of Table Mountain to the other through lush ravines, indigenous forest, and past a stream and waterfalls. This 5.5km hike ends at Maclear’s Beacon – the highest point on Table Mountain. It’s a long, strenuous hike with ladders and rock scrambling. It can be very slippery and should only be attempted by very fit hikers.
Some wonderful hiking spots in Cape Town, ranging from easy to difficult, start at Constantia Nek. The 14.6km Constantia Nek hiking trail is paved for some of the way and goes past a lake and three reservoirs. You can also hike from Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch along a dirt road and wooden path. This trail takes about two hours and goes through Cecilia and Newlands forests.
Many more incredible hiking trails can be found a short drive from Cape Town. There are various day hike options at Cape Point ranging from 2 – 7.5km. The rugged coastline, pristine beaches, shipwrecks and stunning views make these hikes special. The lush Jonkershoek Nature Reserve near Stellenbosch offers four trails, which all require permits.
Crystal Pools trail in the Steenbras Nature Reserve is a tough hike that is only open during summer and autumn. It traverses rocky terrain all the way to a lovely waterfall. Meanwhile, the 24km-long Kogelberg Trail boasts magnificent plant life, views of mountain peaks, and the refreshing waters of the Palmiet River.